HALLOWELL — City councilors voted Tuesday to pass a controversial land maintenance ordinance after approving minor changes in the measure’s third reading.

The ordinance would ban the use of pesticides by Hallowell residents after it goes into effect in January, but would allow the use of fertilizers, a significant change from the original draft ordinance introduced in August 2022.

Members of the City Council who were present during the meeting voted unanimously to pass the ordinance. Councilor Kate Dufour and Berkeley Almand-Hunter were absent.

Most of the changes were made before the second reading last month, but a few minor language changes warranted a third reading.

The final ordinance includes provisions for water testing that can highlight the presence of pesticides and fertilizers in town waters.

The ordinance also includes exemptions for residents to use herbicides to treat invasive plants, which would be allowed using a waiver provided by the code enforcement officer. Exemptions for residents growing food for individual consumption have also been included.


Mayor George Lapointe said the first year is to be considered an educational period, meaning residents will not be fined for violations and, instead, be educated on the use of pesticides. Monetary penalties will go into effect from 2025.

The ordinance was first introduced in August last year by Rosemary Presnar, a resident involved in local committees, to ban the use of synthetic substances and pesticides within 75 feet of any body of water.

After pushback from other residents, officials put together a working group to gather input from residents, environmental advocates and landowners to develop a balanced ordinance aimed at reducing the use of synthetic pesticides.

“The final version of the land management ordinance is the fruit of two years of laborious yet rewarding collaboration among grassroots advocates, city staff members and members of our community,” said Councilor Ryan Martin, who was part of the working group. “The process has resulted in a policy that judiciously restricts the use of cosmetic pesticides in our city, eliminating the impact of countless harmful products on our residents and our environment.”

The notable omission of fertilizers from the provisions was a compromise on behalf of the ordinance’s supporters. The lack of data showing the direct impact of fertilizers on town waters also contributed to the removal of the provision, Martin said.

“I felt good about the process and working with the group,” said Lapointe, who also chaired the working group. “We managed to narrow it down to pertinent matters involving pesticides.”

Pesticide runoff into water bodies is common and has been linked to harming aquatic life and contributing to neurological diseases in humans. About 30 municipalities in Maine have similar regulations, but only a few, including South Portland and Ogunquit, have restrictions on private properties.

“This is something we are excited about if you look around the state and even the country. Very few people are doing this,” Martin said. “It’s a very interesting situation, and we look forward to working with it.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.